The Rhode Island Red is an ideal beginner's bird, since they are well suited to any surroundings and generally have calm natures. They are a large, heavy, soft feather chicken whose colours come only in a wonderful rich red-black. The large male weighs 3.85kg (8½ lb) and the bantam (or miniature) male weighs 0.79-0.91kg (28-32 oz). The large female weighs 2.95kg (6½ lb) and the bantam female, just 0.68-0.79kg (24-28 oz).
This breed came about in America through a mix of indigenous fowl with imported birds from the Far East. As one of the best known composite varieties of chicken, it is favoured and appreciated around the world for its high egg-laying and meat-producing qualities. The breed was developed around the middle of the 19th century in New England by breeders who wanted a dual purpose bird. To achieve this they cross bred many varieties they already had with imported chickens such as Shanghais, Leghorns, and Malays. The selection was very utilitarian, selecting only the best males for the best females to maximise egg quality. After many years of this, the characteristic look of the Rhode Island Red was born.
This bird is generally known for its rectangular, or oblong shaped body. It has a vertical breast, a tail only slightly raised, and a long flat black. The colouring of the feathers is no longer as red as it used to be, but the Rhode Island Red still boast an attractive combination of red, reddish-brown or brick-red, and black. It has a bright red face, with prominent red eyes and either a single rose comb, or a single five-pointed serrated comb. The ear lobes and wattle are average sized, red, and finely textured. Finely, bright yellow legs are a characteristic of the breed and are well spaced apart, with four toes on each.
Egg production is the Rhode Island Red's strong point. A fantastic layer, a healthy hen should produce over 200 large, brown eggs in a season.
Except for the males sometimes getting a little “sparky” with each other, this breed is usually docile and calm, giving them an almost ideal personality for a productive backyard chicken. They won't tolerate over crowding, (like many other breeds) but otherwise are happy to adapt the whatever set up you provide for them, making them great for beginners. They are a hardy bird and mature reasonably early, however their only real negative is that they do not go broody very well.